Shu-Ha-Ri and psychology

Alistair Cockburn’s introductional chapter in Agile Software Development – The Cooperative Game reminded me today on something I learned before entering university. My fourth a-level during my german abitur was on education science. My teacher by that time (1996-1998) had a strong background in psychology and introduced Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development to us. Cockburn’s introductional comments on Shu-Ha-Ri reminded me on this when I came to read the chapter this morning.

Since I learned on Kohlberg’s model nearly 12 years ago without having any practical use of it, I had to look up the model. Cockburn had raised the question in me, if there were any parallels between Kohlberg’s model and the Shu-Ha-Ri educations. I started with this by searching out the notes we were given during school. Since I collected everthing that I wrote down during my abitur time, this was quite easy, though I did not remember the right semestry.

Kohlberg’s model denotes three main levels each with two sub-levels or stages. There is also a zeroth level and – as I got to know today – also an undocumented seventh stage. The three main levels with two stages each build the ground for his theory. Within the first (pre-conventional) level the student is influenced mainly by the teacher and the teacher’s opinion on right or wrong may be mapped to the student’s one. The second (conventional) level describes reasoning from the social point of view.

Persons who reason in a conventional way judge the morality of actions by comparing these actions to societal views and expectations.

Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development

The third (post-conventional) level goes beyond this. The argumentation follows princicples of ethics like Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative.
Personally I was hoping to find parallels between these three main stages and the Shu-Ha-Ri concept.

Shu-Ha-Ri consists itself of three stages of communications and learning. The first stage describes the obeying phase.

The student should absorb all the teacher imparts, be eager to learn and willing to accept all correction and constructive criticism.

In the second stage:

The student’s individuality will begin to emerge in the way he or she performs techniques. At a deeper level, he or she will also break free of the rigid instruction of the teacher and begin to question and discover more through personal experience.

For the third stage:

Although the student is now fully independent, he treasures the wisdom and patient counsel of the teacher and there is a richness to their relationship that comes through their shared experiences. But the student is now learning and progressing more through self-discovery than by instruction and can give outlet to his or her own creative impulses.

The meaning of Shu-Ha-Ri

Though I hoped to find parallels between Kohlberg’s model and the Shu-Ha-Ri I came up disapointed that there is nothing. After reading more stuff on Kohlberg on Wikipedia it finished that Shu-Ha-Ri can be thought of as being more progressed than Kohlberg’s model. Especially the critisms on Kohlberg made me aware of this. The cases where Kohlberg did not think of are the cases where Shu-Ha-Ri steps in.

Furthermore I hope you disagree with this statement of mine and would like to share your viewpoint on this topic.

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